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Is a Spanish twat wrecking BA (British Airways)?

(weekend blog)

Manuel makes a mess of things

The story of how BA’s CEO and Chairman, Spaniard Alex ‘Manuel’ Cruz, is wrecking BA will probably be a case study for years to come in many business schools’ teaching of how to destroy a once great company.

BA used to be “the world’s favourite airline”. On the Skytrax 2017 passenger surveys, BA now comes in at number 40, below such flying jokes as Garuda (10), Turkish Airlines (12) and even the laughable Aeroflot (30). In 2016 BA was at 26 and in 2015 at 20. So the direction of travel for BA – ever downwards – is clear to everyone except apparently BA’s useless Spanish boss.

To wreck an airline’s reputation so badly in such a short time is truly some achievement. Surely only Spaniard Alex ‘Manuel from Fawlty Towers’ Cruz could have made such a mess of our no-longer favourite airline?

Brands matter

BA used to be one of the world’s top brands. Brands matter. Companies spend billions building up their brand image. The world’s top brands include Apple (1), Google (2), Microsoft (3), Facebook (4), Coca-Cola (5), Amazon (6), Disney (7), Toyota (8) and McDonalds (9). Having a strong brand brings customer loyalty, increased sales, the ability to charge more than competitors and higher profitability than competitors. To destroy a company’s brand is an act of self-harm few executives are incompetent enough to try.

BA used to be a top brand. It stood for a slightly old-fashioned service. The kind you might expect at a traditional British hotel or restaurant or hotel. Nothing flashy, nothing too brash, just good, old-fashioned, friendly reliability. That’s why so many people used to fly BA. Nowadays, with Alex Cruz in charge of BA, regular travellers talk of flying ABBA Airlines (Anyone But BA).

Manuel takes over

Alex ‘Manuel’ Cruz’s background is running low-cost airlines. In particular, he was involved in setting up and managing Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling:

Vueling was a Spanish version of Ryanair – with Ryanair’s prices, Ryanair’s level of service (f**king shut up, f**king sit down or just f**k off) and Spanish organisational skills. When you fly Vueling or Ryanair or EasyJet, you know what you’re getting – low fares, lots of hidden charges and ‘f**k off you’re you’re unhappy’ service. But that’s not why BA was once “the world’s favourite airline”.

Here are some of Manuel’s (sorry, I meant Alex’s) ways of ‘improving’ BA:

  • less room between seats and smaller seats to fit in more seats in spite of passengers getting taller and larger
  • removing toilets from tourist class to fit in more seats
  • removing all free food and drinks on flights of less than 4 hours
  • replacing free food with overpriced M&S sandwiches which inevitably run out after the first few rows have been served
  • removing all reclining seats on flights of less than 4 hours
  • cutting down on food and drinks on long-haul flights
  • removing toilets and catering facilities from Premium Economy class on long-haul flights to fit in more seats
  • reducing check-in staff to force customers to use self-service machines which often don’t work
  • cutting ‘customer service’ staff making it almost impossible for passengers with problems or who are stranded somewhere to get any help
  • keeping planes flying long after they should have been retired giving BA one of the oldest fleets of a major airline and resulting in more long delays and cancellations due to ‘technical problems’ than other large airlines
  • reducing cleaning on planes so some aircraft toilets now resemble those found in the poorer districts of Morocco or Mogadishu
  • restricting seats available for people who accumulate airmiles making the airmiles almost impossible to use
  • handing BA’s IT systems to the cheapest possible supplier resulting in regular breakdowns and days of chaos
  • fighting demoralised cabin crew to keep their wages and benefits down
  • there are probably many more brilliant ideas Manuel (sorry, I meant ‘Alex’) has implemented that I don’t know about

Meanwhile BA’s competitors keep buying new planes, improving their in-flight services and outcompeting Alex’s failing BA. I wonder where BA will be on Skytrax’s 2018 list? Down to number 45? Even down to number 50? Who knows? Some more cuts in service, another few strikes by pilots or cabin crew and another computer failure and it’s anybody’s guess how badly-rated BA will be this year.

And when things go wrong – as they do when you cut costs to the bone – Manuel (sorry, I meant ‘Alex’) disappears for a few days and then finally reappears wearing a high-viz jacket:

as if he has been personally fixing computers or flying aircraft or sorting lost luggage or whatever when, in fact, he has been huddled with his eye-wateringly expensive PR advisers trying to find a new excuse to cover up his own incompetence.

But profits are up, up up!

In the short term, magnificent Manuel’s cost-cutting, low-cost-carrier approach will be hugely successful. Most people don’t fly very often and BA have a stranglehold on take-off and landing slots at most British airports. So by maintaining passenger numbers while slashing service levels and costs, magnificent Manuel and his flying machines will increase profits, drive up the share price and enable himself and his boss Willie Walsh to pocket massive bonuses in spite of trashing BA:

But eventually potential passengers will realise what a horror story BA has become and increasingly avoid BA and fly ABBA (Anyone But BA) Airlines. Then profits will collapse and Manuel’s cost-cutting, customer-hating strategy will be exposed as a disaster. No problem for Manuel. He’ll fly off into the sunset with a multi-million-pound payoff and someone else will be called in at great expense to sort out Manuel’s mess.

It’s all so predictable. It’s all so unnecessary.

9 comments to Is a Spanish twat wrecking BA (British Airways)?

  • David Brown

    Excellent article.The main stream financial press never seem to cover these sort of issues until after the event when its too late.Their so called tips are as good as those of racing tipsters. Articles on some new project,or what people are investing are probably adverts on behalf of their pals.

  • Carl

    Having taken at least one long haul and several European flights a year for the past 10+ years, I haven’t once flown on BA (or south east airlines as it should be called).I simply can’t understand why anyone would.

    KLM in particular does fantastic service from lots of regional airports and transits are via a fantastic hub near Amsterdam. Ryanair and easyJet take some beating and are we’ll run airlines.

    No seat should recline into someone else’s space, I’m all in favour of what BA is doing on that one, just wish is was on long haul too and they changed the seats to something like ANA has on 787s that reclines by moving the base forward

  • Joe Schmo

    Shame about the hijacking of your article by tomtit and its all over for Sweden.
    BA certainly hold the monopoly of slots at Heathrow and London City and quite a few at Gatwick, behind EasyJet.
    I unfortunately live near LHR, so am stuck with using them
    quite often as they are on my doorstep.
    You point is really well made.
    He does the slash and burn and walks away with a fat cheque at the end of it, leaving someone else to clear up the mess.
    What I can’t understand is why Willie Walsh is putting up with this. Maybe he want’s that big pay off too as he has been there a long time.
    Lufthansa have their own problems, and have had quite a few strikes in the past, BUT, they have kept their standards up and I cannot see them destroying their brand like B.A.
    Meanwhile the Asian carriers are still the best to fly on,
    especially Singapore Airlines.

  • Gloria from Victoria

    Yes, shame about tomtit….have you not got a delete button David?
    As for BA, I stopped using ’em the moment the merger with Iberia was announced…..anyone that had ever flown with the Spanish carrier knew that their standards were much lower than BA. Subsequently not only has BA been dragged down your man Cruz seems determined to kill off BA.

  • M Jarvis

    I’ve been flying for BA as an airhostess for 20 years and I have certainly seen lots of changes, but I can’t say these changes are in the benefit of our customers, crew or brand .. Right now .. 19 years old taking charge of a plane while crew with experience are just push out as they are ‘more expensive’ .. politics, customer care which used to be 1st class in all the cabin are long gone.. I’m ready to go as it’s a battle where there will be no winners .. 🙁 shame

  • Chippy Fryer

    Walsh is controlling everything inc Cruz (the overweight puppet).

    So sad to see such a great airline be taken down.

  • Francisco J R

    Dear David. I’m not a big fan of “Manuel” neither. He clearly shows his incompetence to run a premium company. Many of your comments are accurate but to classify the people from an entire nation as “incompetent” diminishes the rest of your article. Now a days the borders of intellectuality don’t have anything to do with nationalities, only with with ignorants that hide behind a flag. Some of your readers are Spanish. Obiously Mr Cruz needs to be told all the wrong he is doing. The employees are using all their resources possible. The rest of us can choose to not fly with BA or write to the company to let them know what a disappointment British Airways has become.

  • John dood

    Willie Walsh is pulling the strings, he has never liked BA, and had many run ins with previous BA bosses, he could not wait to murder it once he got it, loathsome little amoeba that he is. This is about retirement, his! And how much bonus he can get before. 8.8 million two years ago, 4.6 million this year, against cruds, sorry Cruz 1.6 million. They are scum. But we let them do it in this country now. Everyone can take the piss, and we ware it… Tragic!

  • Ex British Midland

    Not only are they messing up the airline but many lives. As mentioned getting non-experienced 19 year old kids to take charge of cabin crews, paying off experienced ground staff including baggage handlers and bringing in new inexperienced staff at lower wages who last at the job for months, not years as the older staff members who are being falsed out buy low redundancy payments, those loyal members are doing many hours off overtime and extra duties to keep BA flying and passengers happy. Mr’s Walsh and Cruz should leave now to save BA. The same happen to British Midland some 20 years ago, what happen to them?? gone!

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